Drug-driving law set to be introduced in Queen's Speech

Traffic on a motorway The government believes the law change will make it easier for police to prosecute drug-drivers

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Drug-driving in England, Scotland and Wales could become a specific offence with a jail term and fine, under a new law expected in the Queen's Speech.

Police have to show driving has been impaired by drugs to prosecute.

But under the plans, drivers could face up to six months in jail for driving with certain controlled drugs in your body in excess of specified limits.

Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said legislation would give police powers to "remove this blight".

In the future, police will be equipped with handheld detection devices to test saliva at the roadside.

Offenders could face a fine of up to £5,000, a driving ban of at least 12 months as well as a prison term.

Mr Penning told BBC Breakfast it had taken so long to bring in such a law because testing had always been seen as "very complicated".

He said in Germany, Spain and Australia this was already being done.

"What we are saying is drug-driving is blighting this country and people are being killed and seriously injured on a regular basis.

"We don't know exactly how many because we're not testing correctly so bring the technology through, give the police the powers and remove this blight."

He said five different roadside saliva-testing devices were being considered at the Home Office which is expected to give approval by the end of the year.

Gary and Natasha Groves on their campaign against drug-driving after their daughter, Lillian, was killed

A scientific review panel is also looking at what drugs the devices would test for.

That panel has been considering a scientific case for a new offence and looking at the effect of individual drugs, such as cocaine and cannabis on driving.

The exact drugs covered by the offence and the specified limits for each will be decided following advice from the panel and public consultation.

"You'll be tested for drink first because, that's the natural assumption, that if a policeman thinks you're impaired, he'll test you for drink," said Mr Penning.

"If you pass that and he still thinks you're impaired, he's actually going to take a saliva swab from you at the side of the road so we're going to replicate what happens with drink for all the legislation going all the way through."

Start Quote

It's important, not just for us, but for other families to come”

End Quote Gary Groves

Roadside tests would give police the powers to arrest people for drug-driving.

"Then we're going to have a new piece of equipment in the station which will do exactly the same as what the drink testing does which will actually give the prosecution the evidential test to take you to court."

Gary Groves, whose 14-year-old daughter Lillian Groves was killed outside her home in Croydon, south London, by a driver who admitted taking drugs before the accident, said the legislation was "very important".

"It's important, not just for us, but for other families to come," he told Breakfast.

"Hopefully we can get this through - we're trying to push for zero tolerance but we'll just keep pushing and pushing."

Lillian's mother Natasha Groves said other parents had come forward.

"You think you are on your own but obviously there is a far wider problem, it is not just not us out there on our own. It happens all the time."

'Not acceptable'

Joanna Bailey, from road safety charity Brake, told BBC News: "Drink-driving's not acceptable, it's not acceptable to drug-drive either."

The law is to be included in the Crime, Communications and Court Bill.

Prime Minister David Cameron said they wanted to get "drugalysers rolled out more quickly".

Mr Cameron, who met the Groves family last year, said: "As they said at the time, it simply can't be right that a schoolgirl like Lillian can lose her life and then we discover we don't have the laws or the technology to punish drug-drivers properly.

"I hope now that something good can come out of their tragic loss."

The proposed law affects motorists in England, Scotland and Wales.

Northern Ireland's Department of the Environment said it was working towards creating an offence of driving with a "named substance in your body".

A spokeswoman said it was currently illegal to drive in Northern Ireland whilst impaired through drink or drugs.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    @Eddy from Waring (#2)

    Drug driving is dangerous. Hence the need for a custodial sentence.

    If you can't do the time (in prison), then don't do the crime (on the road).


  • rate this

    Comment number 82.


    i think u have some issues to work through

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Expect few jail sentences and many fines, yet another fund-raising exercise..let's hope these these tests are accurate and we don't get false positives for medicines.

    I would much prefer stiffer sentences for people who drive without insurance. Make this offence a mandatory prison sentence - these people cause huge problems and are often fined less than what it would cost to buy insurance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I am just finishing up a 3 year ban for my first/only charge, which was drug related. I had no drugs on my person, passed the breathalyser, and was deemed fit by a doctor. I was arrested after my car broke down, and the blood test showed levels below the accurate measurement level of the equipment - I had taken something 48 hours earlier. Losing my car, job & house has ruined my life. Be warned!

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Perhaps if the most fitting punishment (a life ban) was given to those causing death by their dangerous driving - under the influence or not, then we'd be getting somewhere. But of course then the Treasury wouldn't benefit from their continual fines, increased insurance premium tax and road tax revenue.

    If motoring wasn't so beneficial financially you can bet the laws would be different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    51 Peter Buck
    Couldn't agree more. Last time a policeman was seen on my road he was wearing the tall helmet and had a blue and white checked band on his sleeve!

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.


    You'd have to be pretty stupid to get behind the wheel on morphine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    61 Caffeine is incredibly common and would be very hard to ban, just try and avoid caffeine (1,3,7-trimethyl-xanthine) and you will see, it is present in many plants and seeds.

    Also you have to get very close to the lethal dose before the effects you describe kick in. At normal usage it increases concentration and can improve driving performance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    #69 Anyone who is on a prescription drug that impairs their ability to drive should not drive. All of that information is contained in the leaflets supplied with the drugs.
    Of course illegal drugs don't come with information - so anyone caught deserves the ban and any other punishment, because they have not given any thought to the impact of their behaviour on others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Note to krokodil.
    I've noticed recently we seem to agree on everything except cause/solution to the Israel/Palestine problem. You can't be all bad!

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Did I missed something... it's just that I thought drugs were already illegal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    About a quarter of all road traffic fatalities are caused by careless, drunk or drugged drivers. This means that three quarters of the road deaths are caused by sensible, sober, drug free drivers - these people are a menace to society and must be eliminated from our roads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    People should be free but they must not harm anyone else in any way.

    no drugs if one teaches children, drives, operates machinery, has children under 16, works, cares for a relative etc, otherwise severe consequences.

    But for example sit at home, effectively "unemployed" childless rent collecting landlords could take drugs as long as they don't help an elderly person cross the road.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    We all know most druggies live on benefits, own nothing, etc how will they be fined and they will not be gaoled as the prisons are already overflowing. This story is just another ban it, make it illegal fairy story like the "war on drugs" and "ban porn from the internet" a complete waste of money in other words.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Morphine is used as a Pain Killer for various serious illnesses.

    Heroin is Morphine in a less refined state as is Opium.

    Would a person under the influence of a Prescribed Drug be prosecuted?

    Another issue, at what point are the residual elements of drugs in your system deemed to be NOT having an influence or impairment? (legal or otherwise).

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Says this story's heading, "Drug-driving law set to be introduced in Queen's Speech."

    Read "OTHER-DRUG-driving law". In the case of the most popular psychotropic drug its lethality when paired with use of roads (&, oops, use of footpaths & of the front walls of people's dwellings!) is already recognised by several laws in the UK.

    Of course, to some people a handheld mobile phone is a drug . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    I recently had an outpatient's procedure and was given some kind of sedative - which felt fantastic and quite frankly I was off my face for awhile. I was advised not to drive that day - which I didn't. But when would I have been legal. Could I claim compensation from the hospital if I failed a test the next day? What a minefield the politicians are opening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    You could try... license would have a QR (Barcode) on the back which would have to be displayed on the windscreen. Upgraded speed cameras would in theory be able to use character recognition software to match the drivers face to the license, and if it were banned you could track down the verhicle and take action. In theory its possible, but very expensive. (No more wife takes the points either)

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Long, long overdue. How about the idiots who drive using the phone not wearing seats belts. This is already Law but is ignored consistantly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    This may level the playing field, why should someone off their head on coke or cannabis be able to drive with impunity while if I go to the pub for a rare evening out I need to pay for a cab home when both are dangerous?
    As a side effect (no pun intended) it may finally start to make people think twice before taking those 'oh so cool powders'. It could even make drugs uncool! We can only hope.


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